GT Updates 5/13/16

It has been another one of those topsy-turvy weeks with STAAR testing and power outages, so I am going to do one blog post to summarize the last 5 days.

On Monday 2nd grade was not able to have class as I was helping with STAAR testing.  Fortunately, I finished in time to meet with the 1st graders in the afternoon, and they finished their GT Mother’s Day projects.

Tuesday morning’s STAAR testing meant I couldn’t meet with 3rd grade, but Kinder got to meet and play more Robot Turtles, adding challenges (and even getting to the point where they could”write” a program!)  On Friday, Kinder met with me again, and we reviewed Inventor Thinking by reading Cinderella Bigfoot and trying to think of funny substitutions we could do in other fairytales.

On Wednesday we had no electricity, which meant the planned STAAR testing was cancelled, but we kept our STAAR schedule – so I was able to meet with 4th grade for some of the time.  They worked on trying to add colored sand to their 3-d printed mandals, which was a learning experience for all of us!

Thursday was our last day of STAAR testing, and I was able to meet with 5th grade after the test.  The students worked on thinking deeply about drones, and then we had a somewhat surprise visit from Dr. Smith and his co-worker, Robin, from Smith & Shedd Veterinary Hospital.  I say that it was a surprise because we had planned it a few weeks ago, and it somehow dropped off my calendar;) Fortunately, we weren’t STAAR testing at the time!  Dr. Smith and Robin really helped several of the students with their Genius Hour research, and gave us some fascinating things to think about regarding animal abuse, puppy mills, and hunting.

As you can read, the week was busy and required a lot of flexibility!  We should be back on track for our last two weeks of GT!

Mitchell Lake Field Trip

Wow!  What a great trip the 3rd-5th graders had yesterday to Mitchell Lake.  A lot of this was due to their incredible behavior, our wonderful chaperones, the staff at Mitchell Lake, and Mr. Justin Moore (our drone expert)!  Mr. Moore put together a “highlight” video of our field trip using drone footage, as well as images gathered by students.  You can view the video below.  I’ve also tried to embed the 3d map the drone produced that day. (If the embed code doesn’t work, you can click here.)  The photos are some of the ones I took of our group.  Hopefully we can include some of the other group, too!

by DroneDeploy
on Sketchfab

4th Grade Adds Spirograph to their Mathematical Masterpieces

I had purchased an old Spirograph kit from eBay a few years ago and thought I would give the students the option to add some Spirograph art to their mathematical masterpieces.  Little did I know that most of them have never used Spirograph!  Keely became our class tutor as she showed the students how to use the different sized gears to make multiple designs.  The students continued to work on their rough drafts and some of them were able to start programming the Sphero for painting next week.  Four of the students synergized to try to create a “draw-bot” out of the Sphero, making several iterations before they finally found something that might work.  It was a classic example of Design Thinking!  Then the students played a math game on our Osmo to finish up the day.

4th Grade Chooses a Theme Song

After last week’s hexagonal learning activity during which the students had deep conversations about Tuck Everlasting, they were prepared to choose a theme song that best represented the book.  Despite some technical difficulties, they were able to listen to 5 different songs and to find lyrics that connected with the book.  Most of the students chose, “I Lived,” by One Republic, but we had one outlier who chose Natasha Bedingfield’s song, “Unwritten.”  Here are their thoughts about this activity, as well as our “Alice in Fractal Land” lesson:


Cristian I might think differently about songs when I listen to them because now I know what the surface and deeper meaning of the lyrics can be and I will be relating them more often to books, movies or other songs that I have heard or seen.
Connor A new word I learned today is fractal. This is a geometric shape that repeats itself over and over at smaller scales. Such as a snowflake,a triangle,and much more.
Max One pattern I noticed is Pascal’s triangle is endless like the Fibonacci numbers in it. There is a list of prime numbers that is also endless.
Luke One way my perspective of Tuck Everlasting seems to have changed over time is what I thought of Winnie. At the beginning of the book she wasn’t doing anything with her life but near the end of the book she was living a free life.
Jordan One question I still have after today’s learning is what does the lyrics mean in “I Lived” because I think my meaning could be a little deeper.
Keely I see a connection between Tuck Everlasting and “I Lived” by One Republic because “I Lived” says “I did it all”and Jesse wants to do it all

4th Grade Learns about Fibonacci

The 4th grade students are learning about mathematical “masterpieces” such as Pi.  This week, they learned about the Fibonacci sequence and how it relates to nature.  The students were entertained by this series of videos by Vi Hart.

Speaking of mathematical masterpieces, we were able to print one of the mandalas the students designed, and hope to get the rest of them printed by next week.


Despite our shortened time period (due to 5th grade STAAR), the students also had a little time to work on their playground equipment designs, and looked for laws that might effect their final products.

Photo Mar 30, 12 30 26 PM Photo Mar 30, 12 30 43 PM

4th Grade Learns about Pi Day

The 4th graders celebrated Pi Day a bit early since the actual date is during our Spring Break.  The learned about Pi by watching the “Mile of Pi” video.  Then they got to do a fun challenge called, “Pi Day Breakout” where they had to use clues related to Pi to solve different challenges.

In addition to those activities, they continued to read Tuck Everlasting, and also did some research on playground equipment so they could be better informed before making their designs.

Photo Mar 02, 9 10 29 AM Photo Mar 02, 9 10 31 AM Photo Mar 02, 9 11 16 AM Photo Mar 02, 9 11 18 AM

4th Grade Ponders the Meaning of Mandalas

Here are some of the reflections from this week’s 4th grade GT class:

Cristian Mae Tuck might think differently about the man on the yellow suit selling the magical spring water because the man is doing it for the money, which he thinks is ok, but Mae on the other hand thinks that if everyone knows about it, everyone will live forever and it would be chaos.
Luke Something I would like to go home and learn more about is the process of making a mandala. I want to know more about the measurements they make. I also want to know about what kind of prayers they make. Why do they dump the sand into a river and not the ocean? What kind of tools do they use?
Jordan I see a connection between the man in the yellow suit and the wasp,because they both only care about themselves and they both  worry about if they’re going to die or lose their wealth(the wasp’s wealth is his food or his friends.
Keely One question I still have about today’s learning is: What do the mandala’s symbols mean?

The students were all able to complete their mandala designs in Tinkercad.  We are just waiting on some new filament for our printer!

4th Grade Works on Mandalas

We ran out of time before the 4th graders could do their reflections this week.  They were busy learning about and designing mandalas that we hope to print on the 3d printer.  They also had a fascinating discussion about Tuck Everlasting after we reached the part where Mae encounters the Man in the Yellow Suit.  “Is violence ever okay?” was the question that was posed, and the students had interesting points of view!

4th and 5th Grade Break Out!

The 4th and 5th graders got to try out a new activity that the teachers will be doing during our professional development on Monday.  It is a great way to get students involved in learning by collaborating and solving puzzles.  The group of 10 did a great job working together and figuring out all of the clues that I left for them.  They helped me by showing me what might work, and what definitely won’t.  The conversation was great as the students made extreme efforts to persevere, but then disagreed with each other as to whether or not they could ask for a hint. (They were allowed to ask for one hint only, and the whole team had to agree.)  One of the students commented, “Sometimes you need to know when it’s good to ask for help.” This was a great lesson for them as they realized that being independent problem solvers is great, but it isn’t shameful to ask for help, especially when it’s being offered!

4th Grade Meets Jason Chin

The 4th graders had a somewhat shortened time in the GT classroom last week because they had the opportunity to attend a presentation by Jason Chin, author and illustrator, with the rest of their grade level.  The students really enjoyed the presentation about the Galapagos Islands and the interesting creatures who reside there.  They were quite impressed Mr. Chin’s amazing sketching skills, which he demonstrated in front of the crowd!

The students also used some depth and complexity questions to analyze Tuck Everlasting, making some very meaningful observations about the story.